The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North-America (NAD) officially moved its offices from the building it shared with the General Conference (GC) of the world church in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, to new headquarters located 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) north in Columbia, Maryland, on September 18. The move capped years of joint planning with world church leaders and months of building renovations and logistical considerations.
An August 29 farewell luncheon hosted by the GC Prayer Ministries team and a consecration worship service and reception organized by the GC leadership team on September 20 were marked by moments of gratitude, laughter, and tears. GC and NAD church leaders emphasized that the main reason for the move is to help the region focus even more intensely on mission.
“The move is to focus on mission, to advance mission in the NAD,” said world church president Ted N. C. Wilson in a special message delivered at the consecration service. “We thank [the NAD] for being part of the great world family of Seventh-day Adventists.”
One of the Youngest
For decades, as “divisions” or church regions were formed around the world to serve the local membership better, the Adventist Church in North America remained an almost indistinct part of the world church headquarters.
“The North American Division, unlike other divisions, has almost always been administered directly by the General Conference. In fact, for many years the two have been virtually indistinguishable,” explained Ministry magazine editor J. R. Spangler back in an April 1984 feature discussing the NAD’s new status at the time.
After some recommendations in the late 70’s, delegates to the 1980 General Conference Session in Dallas, Texas, United States voted to establish the North-American Division as a separate division of the world church, like the ones already in place in other parts of the world. For the first time in the late 80’s to early 90’s for instance, department directors were appointed to serve the needs and meet the specific challenges of the church membership in North-America. The NAD and the GC, however, kept sharing the same building.
“Those who have worked in the NAD realized decades ago that the time would come when the NAD would need more room to do their planning and to execute their plans,” said world church treasurer Juan Prestol Puesán in remarks to both GC and NAD employees at the consecration service. “We are glad this moment has come. [But] as you leave this place, remember this is your house too.”
Church leaders reminded attendees that the network of close connections between the world church and the church in North-America has been historically strong.
“Words do not adequately express the interconnections between the GC and the NAD,” said NAD president Dan Jackson in a live phone message during the farewell luncheon. Jackson, who was attending a board meeting in California and could not attend the luncheon in person, said he had words of thanks for the historical support of the world church to the NAD. “We have been greatly blessed along the years…For all the prayer support, the verbal support, the actual support the NAD has been given through the years, we praise God and we say, ‘Thank you.’”
As part of the transition, GC and NAD employees were also invited to leave farewell messages on a wall leading to the NAD offices section of the world church headquarters. Many messages poignantly emphasized how meaningful the relationship between the two organizations have been. Others had sincere words of appreciation for the time shared in the building. “We love you, and we will miss the fellowship,” wrote an employee. “Lots of good times! Lots of good memories!” wrote another.
Overall, many employees’ messages expressed a desire to keep visiting each other, especially since the new NAD headquarters are just a few minutes from the GC building, and some families have members working in both institutions.
In a more solemn moment, a special consecration service invited GC and NAD leaders to reflect on the historical meaning of the Adventist work in North America and its contemporary implications for mission.
Wilson began his special consecration service message by reflecting on a mission-driven approach to ministry. Based on the scriptural passage of Joshua 1:3—“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you”—, he encouraged NAD leaders to move forward with mission.
“The NAD has been spread before you, as it has since its beginning,” Wilson told regional leaders. “The wonderful opportunity that the NAD has to reach every place in the division is a wonderful gift from God.”
While he made clear it was not his intention to be nationalistic, Wilson reminded employees of the prophetic importance of the United States against the background of the beginnings of the Adventist Church. After briefly reviewing what the Bible teaches about a beast coming out of the earth (Revelation 13:11, 12), which Adventist prophecy traditionally has identified with the United States of America, he said there is no randomness in God’s plans.
“God set up His end-time people to begin in this country for a reason,” he said as he referred to the significant contributions the United States church has made to the world field. “Thousands of missionaries have been sent; millions upon millions of dollars have been expended,” he said. “People still look to the United States for an incredible amount of financial support, of intellectual opportunity, of the opportunity of living in a free society. We praise God for what He did to prepare this country for the Adventist message.”
World church Health Ministries director Peter Landless, a native of South Africa, agreed that the United States and the North American region’s contribution to the world church has been outstanding.
“The NAD has been very close to my heart through the years, because all the magazines, all the missionaries I’ve ever met, have come from this part of the world,” he said.
A Call to Focus on Mission
Wilson said that even though most Adventist members now live outside the NAD—a region which now comprises not only the US but also Canada, Bermuda, Guam and the Federate States of Micronesia in the Pacific—he feels confident that “the NAD will continue to be a great powerful force for mission.”
As Wilson reminded leaders that “[the NAD] moving a few miles down the road has no significance in terms of separating from the world church,” he appealed everyone to stay focused on mission.
“Let us go forward. Let us move together. Let us stay together. Let us see the mission of the church. Let us place our foot in every spot of the territory, not only in North America but around the world,” he said.
Looking forward, Jackson said that what he sees as a two-way road will strengthen after the move to the new regional headquarters.
“I believe in the coming years, the obvious support and connections of the NAD to our world church will become more and more evident,” he said. “I’m praying for that, and I think we all need to pray for that.”
Wilson couldn’t agree more.
“As the NAD president has written, ‘the North American church and people have a great loyalty to the world Seventh-day Adventist Church.’ We believe it, and we accept it, so let us unite in moving forward to place our foot on every territory of this great division and around the world,” he said.